The Global Citizen: Consumerism, Lifestyle Politics, and International Regimes of Democratic Accountability
This chapter explores the rise of what might be called global citizenship as characterized by broad coalitions of groups using campaigns against corporations, along with other tactics, to press for greater public accountability in trade regimes, labor practices, human rights, environmental quality, and other areas of corporate social responsibility. The focus of the analysis is on how these campaigns work, beginning with a brief introduction to ways in which globalization has affected both citizen identities and meaningful political action. Stated briefly, the argument goes like this. Public (citizen)
identities change as global economies create new personal challenges for managing careers, social relationships, and family life. Cosmopolitan citizens in global societies process their political choices increasingly in terms of how those choices affect their own lifestyles. As lifestyles become more diverse, they are poorly articulated with old political categories such as class, party or religion. As a result, ideological messages – particularly
about global justice issues — are less likely to be received positively by typical citizens.
In this context, effective activist political communication increasingly adopts a lifestyle vocabulary anchored in consumer choice, self-image, and personal displays of social responsibility. In particular, attaching political messages to corporate brands becomes a useful way to carry often radical ideas into diverse personal life spaces, as well as across national borders and cultural divides.